Protecting the Planet. Week 4.  Biodiversity, species decline: extra notes and updates.

Extent and causes of the decline. Biodiversity and ecosystems.  Lessons from ecology. Remedies: organic agriculture, re-wilding, etc.


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These notes are ‘work in progress’!!

Preliminary notes 1.

(Oct. 2020). From ‘Back to Nature’ by Chris Packham and Megan McCubbin:

p 58: bees take bites out of leaves to encourage earlier pollination (used in Wellcome lecture)

p 60: ‘island biogeography: In the 9160s Robert MacArthur and Edward Wilson developed this concept. Two main principles: species richness will be higher in larger areas; species richness will decrease with increasing isolation. Small ‘islands’ away from each other will sustain less wildlife, and get more exposure to pollution, wind etc.

            See also 23/1/2021, Patrick Greenfield, on Sweden’s reindeer crossings.

In southern California, there have been signs of inbreeding among lions in the Santa Monica Mountains because busy freeways around Los Angeles have isolated populations with low genetic diversity. To help save the mountain lion population from local extinction, an $87m (£63m) wildlife bridge is planned over the 101 highway north of LA, which would be the largest in the world.

“When habitat is isolated, we can have impact on individual animals where they might not be able to find water or food. We can also have impact on the genetic diversity of populations,” says Mark Benson, a member of the human-wildlife coexistence team for Lake Louise, Yoho and Kootenay at Parks Canada.

The agency has overseen one of the most successful uses of wildlife bridges in the world in Banff national park, Alberta, installing seven overpasses and 41 underpasses on the section bisected by the Trans-Canada Highway.

Jon Henley, 21/1/21: Climate change is having a devastating impact on Sweden’s 250,000 reindeer and the 4,500 indigenous Sami owners... Some winter grazing lands have not recovered from droughts and wildfires, hard ice covering lichen instead of softer snow makes it difficult for the reindeer to eat the lichen. The bridges have to be open, as if it was like a tunnel the reindeer would not enter it.


p 104: moths emit ultrasonic clicks to confuse bats. Female Asian corn borer moths can’t distinguish the male moths’ clicks from bats, and freeze – enabling males to mate with them!

p 117: State of Nature Report 2016: between 1970 and 2013, 56% of UK species declined. Of the nearly 8,000 species assessed using modern criteria 15% are threatened with extinction, which suggests that we are among the most nature-depleted countries in the world. Of the 218 countries assessed for biodiversity intactness, UK is 189th.

p 122: Dave Goulson 2018 A People’s Manifesto for Wildlife: ‘About 500 different ‘active ingredients’ are licensed for pesticides in EU. In 2016, 16.9 thousand tonnes of ‘active ingredients’ were applied to UK farmlands comprising 5.9 thousand tonnes fungicide, 7.8 thousand tonnes herbicide, 315 tonnes insecticide. In 2016 on average each farmer used 17 different applications, which approximately double that of 25 years ago.

p 127-130: Nature Friendly Farming Network (NFFN). Over 70% of our land is farmed...

p 139: there are varying degrees of natural conflicts and competitions between species that are beneficial, driving evolution and behaviour – especially where several species occupy the same niche. Competition may be inter-species or intra-species.

p 171ff: farming: Nov 2019 Farmers Weekly reported many upland sheep farms in Wales would not survive without subsidies. Payments contributed to 45% of turnover, 242% of profits (Uni of Aberystwyth). In 2019 EU subsidies = £350 million a year = more than 80% of farm incomes in Wales – sheep farming especially vulnerable, so why not re-wild?

p 206: bison. Small herd to be released in Kent – ecosystem engineers: regenerate old pine plantations by eating the bark and rubbing against the trees to moult. This kills the pine and makes for a more diverse woodland. Dead wood becomes habitat for insects, which in turn support bats, birds, etc.

p 211: large blue butterfly – caterpillars hatch in July and feed on wild thyme flower buds for three weeks then drop to the ground. They mimic sounds and smells of the red ant (Myrmica sabuleti) and are carried away into ants’ nests. For 10 months they are looked after by the ants, even though they eat the ant larvae. However, the ant needs vegetation of a certain height, 1.4 centimetres – any taller and the temperature of the earth falls too low. Rabbits crop the plants to the right height! Myxamatosis in 1950s killed rabbits, ants disappeared, large blues went into terminal decline. It took Jeremy Thomas, David Simcox, Judith Wardlaw and Ralph Clarke who compiled all the data that might affect the butterflies, and set up a mathematical model to solve the puzzle as to why they were disappearing.

p 222: trees... only 13% of UK has tree cover, and this stores 48 million tonnes of CO2 in the woodland, plus 42 million tonnes in soil and leaf litter. But planting trees isn’t enough – mangrove swamps, peat bogs, seabed grasses are all important and yet only 2.5% of government budget for carbon capture goes to these environments. Trees cut for timber retain the CO2, but not when made into paper. Mustn’t plant trees on ground which itself better able to absorb CO2. Question also is which kind of tree – fast-growing for timber, or slower growing broad leaf. Globally we need 1 to 2 billion hectares of forest – but at planting rate of 1 million trees per hectare this would take 1,000 years!

p 233: microbes that had lain dormant in sediment on seabed in south Pacific for 100 million years could be revived and then grew and multiplied... even the simplest of organisms are anything but simple, and life can and will persist even in the most deprived environments.

p 238: nature-based solutions to flooding: restore water meadows and wetlands, re-wild the grouse moors and sheep-wrecked uplands, rebuild wet woodlands and bog ecosystems on land targeted for trees. Parachute in some beavers!

p 242: Climate and Ecological Emergency Bill has been drafted, which would amend the 2008 Climate Change Act

p 244: Species moving: little hard evidence now, so need citizen science – Uni of York, using social media 2008 – 18 showed 55 species had shifted their ranges. Found that 29% of species with altered ranges were having a negative impact e.g. disease transmission and out-competing other species.  


Preliminary notes 2 (date?): Fishing: worried by the pro-Brexit anger of our fishermen, I’m not sure what the best view is of the common fisheries policy etc, but here is a charity/NGO that seems to me to have the best line:


Preliminary notes 3. Animal rights (date?): Sophie McBain in New Statesman interviews Steve Wise, founder of the Nonhuman Rights Project. Quotes Peter Singer. India’s supreme court has ruled all animals should have constitutional and legal rights (2014), a judge in Argentina ordered a chimpanzee to be released using habeas corpus (2016), and in 2017 Colombia’s supreme court ordered a bear to be released under the same principle. Bees and wasps can recognise faces; octopuses use tools; grey parrots have vocabularies with hundreds of words; elephants can recognise themselves (in a mirror).


Updates in chronological order:

Sep. 2015. Red Squirrels: 

Jan 2018 Wolves

See also Apr 2018. Wolves:

15th Feb 2018, Matthew Taylor – climate change and industrial fishing together are threatening the krill population. George Watters, lead scientist for the US delegation to the Convention for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) warns that the penguin population could drop by almost a third by the end of the century because of changes in the krill biomass. (Published in Plos One). Some areas of krill could decrease by 40% in size. Ocean warming is the main problem, but fishing also affects it. Krill feed on algae and are a food source for whales, penguins and seals – they also remove CO2 from the atmosphere when they eat near the surface, and then excrete at lower levels. Krill populations have declined by 80% since the 1970s. Krill is fished for health products, and the industry is growing by 12% a year.

There is a campaign to turn 700,000 sq miles into a sanctuary, protecting wildlife and banning all fishing, in the Weddell Sea. Krill fishing companies say they are only taking 0.4% of the estimated biomass around the peninsula.

28th March 2018, Matthew Taylor: Holland and Barrett has agreed to remove krill-based products such as Omega 3 from its shelves, after activists sent 40,000 emails in 24 hours and put protest stickers on products in its shops. Campaigners are calling for Boots and others to follow suit. Boots say that their brands are in line with Marine Stewardship Council products from sustainable sources.  Last week Greenpeace campaigners boarded a Ukrainian trawler. (See Facebook

11th April 2018. UK Butterfly Monitoring scheme reports that 2017 was the 7th worst year, and for 2 species – grayling and grizzled skipper - the worst ever. (Patrick Barkham) Long-term falls in population are due to habitat loss, but recently climate change, pesticides (such as neonics) and nitrogen pollution have been the causes. UK has 59 native species. Red admiral and comma have increased, and targeted management plus warm spring has helped the pearl-bordered fritillary. Food crops of the worst affected are harmed by increased nitrogen (transport and fertilizers) which helps more vigorous grasses to grow at expense of their food plants.

Observer, 15th April 2018, review by Alex Preston of Britain: Our Place: can we save Britain’s wildlife before it is too late? By Mark Cocker. Argues that despite the British love of the countryside etc, we are destroying our wildlife: quoting the 2013 State of Nature report (by 25 British environmental organisations), of the 3,148 species studied, 60% had declined in the last 50 years; 31% had declined badly and 600 were threatened with extinction. We lost 44m birds between 1996 and 2008. We have lost 99% of our wildflower meadows, half of our ancient woodland, three-quarters of our heathland, three-quarters of our ponds. Yet there are 5m members of the National Trust, 1.2m in the RSPB, 800,000 in various wildlife trusts. These organisations are afraid to campaign (and the NT placates the landed aristocracy). The villains of the story are industrial agri-business, moneyed landowners, and the politicians who defend their interest (mostly conservative of course). Monocultures and grouse moors are destroying the natural countryside.

April 2018. New Zealand: not the pristine environment we might think!

catastrophic biodiversity loss, polluted waterways and the destructive rise of the dairy industry and urban sprawl. Report: Environment Aotearoa found New Zealand is now considered one of the most invaded countries in the world, with 75 animal and plant species having gone extinct since human settlement. The once-vibrant bird life has fared particularly badly, with 90% of seabirds and 80% of shorebirds threatened with or at risk of extinction. Almost two-thirds of New Zealand’s rare ecosystems are under threat of collapse, and over the last 15 years the extinction risk worsened for 86 species, compared with the conservation status of just 26 species improving in the past 10 years.

The scale of what is being lost is impossible to accurately gauge, as only about 20% of New Zealand’s species have been identified and recorded.

Kevin Hague from the conservation group Forest and Bird said the report was chilling reading and captured the devastating affects of “decades of procrastination and denial”.

“New Zealand is losing species and ecosystems faster than nearly any other country,” he said. “Four thousand of our native species are in trouble … from rampant dairy conversions to destructive seabed trawling – [we] are irreversibly harming our natural world.”

14th June 2018. Some possibly good news: one new species of micro moth is found every year in the UK. However, their abundance is in decline. There will be a three-day ‘moth night’ – from 14th to 16th June - organised by Butterfly Conservation, the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology, and Atropos( wildlife publisher). Some new moths arrived from Australia and New Zeeland, via the horticultural trade. Others come here as a result of climate change. 27 of the new arrivals (out of 125 new species spotted this century) have started to breed here. (Patrick Barkham, Guardian)

30th June 2018. Patrick Barkham.

The swallowtail, Britain’s biggest butterfly, could become extinct within four decades. It lives on milk parsley only, and this cannot survive in salty water. Rising seas will turn much of the Norfolk Broads into salt marshes. With a sea level rise of 50cm, at least 90% of the current swallowtail breeding sites will become salt marsh. Tidal surges and ‘salination events’ also cause problems. The Norfolk and Suffolk Broads contain 1,500 species of conservation concern, including 66 that rely on the rivers and freshwater lakes.

In Victorian times, marshes elsewhere in southern England were drained, leaving the Broads as its only home. It has also become smaller and is now a subspecies.

It was reintroduced to Wicken Fen in Cambridgeshire in the 1990s, but without success. Experts believe it needs a wider area.

2nd July 2018. Steven Morris. The high brown fritillary, the UK’s most endangered butterfly, may be getting a boost from the warm dry weather. Over 200 have been seen, after a harsh winter which has helped knock back the bracken, then a warm May and June – all of which is ideal for the caterpillars. The butterfly lays eggs singly on leaf litter on dog violets or among moss growing on limestone outcrops. The larvae hatch in early spring and bask on dead bracken or in short sparse vegetation. It is only found at about 50 sites, such as Exmoor, Dartmoor and Morecambe Bay. The larvae have feathered brown spines which make them look like dead bracken fronds.

The things that have worked against the butterfly include the abandonment of coppicing. Other species which may benefit: heath fritillary, nightjar, Dartford warbler.

But the swallowtail could become extinct soon...

Nov. 2018. War and its impact on the environment:

1st Nov 2018, Michael McCarthy, author of The Moth Snowstorm – Nature and Joy: damage to nature is usually a secondary consideration – except for agent orange spread on 12,000 sq miles of forest in the Vietnam war, or the mass oil pollution from the Sea Island terminal in Kuwait during the Gulf war 1991. In the second world war 60 million people or 3% of the world population (2.3 billion at the time) died... but the amount of shipping sunk in the battle of the Atlantic was the equivalent of about 250 Brent Spar oil rigs (Greenpeace forced Shell not to sink it but move it for breaking up). Professor Tim Birkenhead of Sheffield University, in the journal British Birds, suggests the war badly affected breeding of guillemots on Skomer Island off the west coast of Wales. He estimates there were 100,000 individuals in 1934, but only 4,856 in 1963, a reduction of 95%. Now the numbers have gone up to 23,746. The worst decline was between 1940 and 1946, and oil pollution is the most likely cause. The ocean is far less resilient than we have thought.

Nov. 2018. GM: worrying article on GM potatoes:

8th Nov 2018. Effects of Brexit! Sandra Laville.

Hundreds of people who protect biodiversity and enforce environmental regulations in the UK have been redeployed to work on Brexit. The raid on staff from the Environment Agency, which is responsible for enforcing rules on recycling, air pollution and protecting the country from flooding, and Natural England, which protects habitats and species, has been condemned by MPs.

Mary Creagh, chair of the Environmental Audit Committee, on Thursday published a letter from the environment secretary, Michael Gove, which reveals 400 staff have been moved from these agencies to work centrally on Brexit. The staff moves come as the Department for Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) rushes to prepare for a no-deal Brexit, which will have a particular impact on dairy and chemical exports. Gove’s letter says some of the enforcement and protection work the staff do will be reallocated or paused for now, raising fears that vulnerable habitats and species are being left unprotected because of the chaos over Brexit.

“Preparations for leaving the EU must not get in the way of protecting our treasured natural spaces and iconic British wildlife,” said Creagh.

The Guardian revealed recently how overstretched Environment Agency staff were attempting to investigate widespread abuse and corruption [see above] within the plastic recycling export market. The agency has lost a large number of staff between 2010 and 2018. Sources told the Guardian, enforcement work on plastic recycling had to be put on hold due to staff shortages even before the raid by Defra.

Creagh raised concerns in September over the vulnerability of England’s sites of special scientific interest (SSSIs). The agency has revealed that over two years the number of SSSIs which are in an unfavourable condition has increased. 


2nd Apr. 2019. Insects: (Damian Carrington G): Study published in Global Change Biology.

Woodlands and open grasslands are both affected – woodlands could have protected insects from rising temperatures. Aphids are emerging a month earlier, and birds are laying eggs a week earlier. Animals then become ‘out of synch’ with their prey. On farms, aphids are attacking younger plants because they come earlier, and young plants have not developed immunity.

In farmland, however, insects and birds were emerging later in the spring – perhaps because of changes to habitat: loss of wild areas, and changing crop types, along with declining food availability.

Populations of birds that rely on insects fell by 13% across Europe from 1990-2015, and by 28% in Denmark (which was a case study).

Researchers are increasingly concerned about dramatic drops in populations of insects, which underpin much of nature. In February it was said that these falls could lead to a “catastrophic collapse of nature’s ecosystems ”, and in March there was further evidence of widespread loss of pollinating insects in recent decades in Britain.

Other studies, from Germany and Puerto Rico, have shown falling numbers in the last 25 to 35 years. Another showed butterflies in the Netherlands had declined by at least 84% over the last 130 years.

In February, when the weather was unusually warm, rooks were nesting, ladybirds mating and migratory swallows appearing all a month ahead of schedule.

17th and 30TH April 2019: Animal rights. Sophie McBain in New Statesman interviews Steve Wise, founder of the Nonhuman Rights Project. Quotes Peter Singer. India’s supreme court has ruled all animals should have constitutional and legal rights (2014), a judge in Argentina ordered a chimpanzee to be released using habeas corpus (2016), and in 2017 Colombia’s supreme court ordered a bear to be released under the same principle. Bees and wasps can recognise faces; octopuses use tools; grey parrots have vocabularies with hundreds of words; elephants can recognise themselves (in a mirror).

See also

Problem for the left is that they base their position on ‘humanism’ in the sense of belief in the superiority of humans over animals (‘human supremacism’). Wrong to treat a human like an animal... Interesting that ‘the more people believe that humans are superior to animals, the more likely they are to dehumanise immigrants, women, and racial minorities... reducing the status divide between humans and animals helps to reduce prejudice and helps to strengthen belief in equality amongst human groups’. Will Kymlicka

18th April 2019. New Zealand: not the pristine environment we might think!


April 20 2019. ‘Deep life’: from ‘Up from the depths’ – see #deep time below... Last December scientists revealed their discovery of a vast ‘deep life’ ecosystem in the Earth’s crust, twice the volume of the world’s oceans, containing a biodiversity comparable to that of the Amazon, and teeming with 23bn tonnes of micro-organisms – hundreds of times the combined weight of all living humans.’

25th May 2019, 38Degrees, some useful references:

[1] Huffington Post: Recolouring The Countryside - Why We Need To Put Meadows Back On The Map:
ITV News: Wildflowers and insects under threat due to vanishing meadows, experts warn:
The Guardian: Plummeting insect numbers 'threaten collapse of nature':
[2] The Guardian: World's food supply under 'severe threat' from loss of biodiversity:
BBC News: UN: Growing threat to food from decline in biodiversity:
[3] BBC News: Nature crisis: Humans 'threaten 1m species with extinction':
New Scientist: Destruction of nature is as big a threat to humanity as climate change:

Aug. 2019. Story about rats on an Alaskan island (invasive species...):


11th Dec 2019, Fiona Harvey. The Guam rail has been saved by captive breeding from the IUCN red list. It had been endangered by the brown tree snake, accidentally introduced from US at the end of WW2. The echo parakeet has gone from critically endangered (10 years ago) to vulnerable. There are 112,432 species on the list, of which more than 30,000 are on the brink of extinction. 73 species have declined despite conservation efforts.


Jan 2020. Biodiversity – extraordinary inter-dependence:

The pale giant oak aphid (stomaphis wojciechowskii) has only recently been discovered. It is looked after by brown ants (lasius brunneus): The ants build structures on the trees out of mosses, lichens and the exoskeletons of beetles. These act as a ‘barn’ to keep the aphids in, where they are milked to extract sugary water for the ants. If the aphids are disturbed, the ants move them down the tree to their underground shelters – they carry the little ones in their jaws. They keep the aphids underground in severe weather, and march the aphids up the tree when summer comes. The ants are classified as ‘nationally notable’ and the aphids are probably rare, as there have only been a few locations where they have been found. (Patrick Barkham, 25th Jan 2020).


July 2020. The Guardian: Quarter of native UK mammals at imminent risk of extinction

 Jan 2020. Biodiversity – extraordinary inter-dependence: Another example of the incredible inter-relationship between different living things - ants and aphids:

The pale giant oak aphid (stomaphis wojciechowskii) has only recently been discovered. It is looked after by brown ants (lasius brunneus): The ants build structures on the trees out of mosses, lichens and the exoskeletons of beetles. These act as a ‘barn’ to keep the aphids in, where they are milked to extract sugary water for the ants. If the aphids are disturbed, the ants move them down the tree to their underground shelters – they carry the little ones in their jaws. They keep the aphids underground in severe weather, and march the aphids up the tree when summer comes. The ants are classified as ‘nationally notable’ and the aphids are probably rare, as there have only been a few locations where they have been found. (Patrick Barkham, 25th Jan 2020).

May 2020: Another astonishing relationship has recently been discovered, between acacia plants and ants. The ants live on and in the stems of the plants, and when the plant is threatened the ants send out an acidic liquid that stings and scares off the predator. They have even been known to attack large predators such as giraffe! 

On the other hand, in order to stop the ants eating the flowers on the plant, it produces a chemical the ants cannot stand, keeping the ants off the flowers!

See also June 2020. The ‘wood-wide web’:  

How trees and fungi benefit from each other...

See also, May 2020. Obituary of Lord May of Oxford who was chief scientific advisor to the government 1995 – 2000, says that in his book Stability and Complexity in Model Ecosystems he ‘showed mathematically that in a system with multiple species competing for resources, the more species there were, the less stable was the system as a whole. This theoretical challenge provoked numerous field studies, concluding that diverse systems were generally more stable in the real world, but that stability depended critically on the nature of the relationships (such as predator and prey) within the community. Even diverse environments, such as rainforests and coral reefs, can still be highly vulnerable to changes they have not evolved to withstand.’

In June 2020 the IUCN hold its four-yearly Conservation Congress, and in October the UN Biodiversity Convention will hold a meeting in China. Climate change is the main problem according to the head of climate change at WWF.

25th Aug 2020. Growing up in greener areas boosts children’s IQ (Damian Carrington Guardian). A 3% increase in amount of green boosted IQ scores by average of 2.6 points. Effect seen in both rich and poor areas, but only in urban areas. Possibly suburbs and rural already have enough green space for all children to benefit? Particularly significant increase for children at lower end of spectrum. Could be linked to lower stress, more play, more social contact, or a quieter environment. Published in Plos Medicine.

Sep 2020. FoE petition – protecting biodiversity.

A quarter of native mammals are at imminent risk of extinction [1]. And we’ve failed to reach 17 out of 20 of the UN biodiversity targets that we signed up to a decade ago [2].
But despite all the warnings, the government’s plans for drastic deregulation – from ditching environmental protections to try and get a trade deal with Donald Trump, to the watering down of regulations in our planning system – mean the risks could soon dramatically rise.

Together we must stand up for nature. If we don't protect the precious biodiversity of our planet we'll all suffer the impacts through global heating, dwindling food supplies, and exposure to new diseases. But – just like with the pandemic – it won't affect us all equally. It'll be the most vulnerable, including poorer, and black, Asian and minority ethnic communities who'll face the worst of a nature-deprived world. So now's the time for our government to address that imbalance and help restore nature. Emi, Nature Campaigner

Sep 2020 Attenborough film.

For those working in the sustainability space, the release also came just days before the UN released its fifth Global Biodiversity Outlook, revealing that no progress has been made against 14 of the 20 international biodiversity goals set in 2010, and in the run-up to the international convention on biodiversity. 

Sep 2020. Damian Carrington:

Plants and fungi underpin life on Earth, but the scientists said they were now in a race against time to find and identify species before they were lost.

These unknown species, and many already recorded, were an untapped “treasure chest” of food, medicines and biofuels that could tackle many of humanity’s greatest challenges, they said, potentially including treatments for coronavirus and other pandemic microbes.

“We would be able not survive without plants and fungi – all life depends on them – and it is really time to open the treasure chest,” said Prof Alexandre Antonelli, the director of science at the Royal Botanical Gardens, Kew, in the UK. RBG Kew led the report, which involved 210 scientists from 42 countries.

“Every time we lose a species, we lose an opportunity for humankind,” Antonelli said. “We are losing a race against time as we are probably losing species faster than we can find and name them.”

The UN revealed last week that the world’s governments failed to meet a single target to stem biodiversity losses in the last decade.

The researchers based their assessment of the proportion of species under threat of extinction on the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Red List. But only a small fraction of the 350,000 known plant species have been assessed, so the scientists used statistical techniques to adjust for biases in the data, such as the lack of fieldwork in some regions.

n 2019, Nic Lughadha reported that 571 species had been wiped out since 1750, although the true number was likely to be much higher.

The 2016 State of Plants report found one in five were threatened, but the new analysis reveals the real risk to be much higher. The main cause of plant losses is the destruction of wild habitat to create farmland. Overharvesting of wild plants, building, invasive species, pollution and, increasingly, the climate crisis are also important causes of losses.

Stefano Padulosi, a former senior scientist at the Alliance of Biodiversity International, said: “The thousands of neglected plant species are the lifeline to millions of people on Earth tormented by unprecedented climate change, pervasive food and nutrition insecurity, and [poverty].

“Harnessing this basket of untapped resources for making food production systems more diverse and resilient to change should be our moral duty.”

The report also found the current levels of beekeeping in cities such as London was threatening wild bees, as there was insufficient nectar and pollen available to support beehive numbers and honeybees were outcompeting wild bees.

Sep 2020. Conservation International. A new study published today in Science outlines a groundbreaking plan to decrease the risk of future pandemics by 27 percent or more — with a 10-year investment that is 50 times less than the cost of coronavirus response efforts to date.

Developed by a group of public health experts, ecologists, economists and epidemiologists, the strategy is three-pronged: reduce deforestation, restrict the global wildlife trade and monitor the emergence of new viruses before they spread.

Sep 2020. Guardian: 'Lost decade for nature' as UK fails on 17 of 20 UN biodiversity targets

3rd Oct 2020. Michael McCarthy – article: Bringing the outside in – based on: The Consolation of Nature: spring in the time of Coronavirus, Michael McCarthy, Jeremy Mynott, Peter Marren – to be published Oct 15th. Only 17% of us live in the countryside and have access to nature, but 87% of UK households have access to a garden. This leaves 13% garden-free, and maybe without access to nature? Green Spaces Index (Ordinance Survey) says there are 2.6 million people in UK not within a 10-minute walk of green space or park.  See Caroline Lucas resolution for parliament.

Books mentioned: Crow Country by Mark Cocker; Mark Avery, wildlife blogger; Melissa Harrison: novels and podcasts;  View through a window may influence recovery – paper by Roger Ulrich in Science (just being able to see trees/greenery helped recovery); Bird Therapy by Joe Harkness; The natural Health Service by Isabel Hardman; Losing Eden by Lucy Jones.

Oct 2020. Conservation International email. The more different species on Earth, the more secure our lives and livelihoods — yet more than 1 million species are now at risk of extinction. This biodiversity is the foundation of life on Earth, yet it’s slipping away right in front of us.

What is biodiversity and why is it so important? Our new video explains.

The loss of species is well under way, and it affects the food we eat, the water we drink and the global economy.

Oct 2020: HS2: - endangered bats’ habitat being destroyed? 

1st Oct 2020. Knepp Estate is breeding white storks – article not online yet - previous:

Oct. 2020. New Internationalist:  

September has brought several urgent reminders that we are failing to protect nature: WWF’s latest Living Planet Report tracked a 68-per-cent decline in global wildlife populations – even faster than the 2018 edition. The UN has also announced that none of the Aichi Biodiversity Targets will be met.

Meanwhile, wildfires linked to global warming are sweeping California, and a second wave of Covid-19 (a zoonotic pandemic – ie one that has crossed from animals to humans – which are made more likely by increased deforestation) gathers pace in Europe.

Action is urgently needed. And this week, the UN Summit on Biodiversity will bring world leaders together to address the alarming loss of nature. Negotiations to replace the Aichi Biodiversity Targets are ongoing, and this months’ news is a stark reminder of the importance of ensuring that the next set of international commitments to protect biodiversity are successful.

Three steps: 1. Remove incentives: At the moment our economic system is actively geared to incentivize the destruction of nature. In 2019, the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development estimated that subsidies to industries that are harmful to biodiversity total $500 billion a year, about 10 times the amount of global funding set aside for biodiversity conservation and sustainability.

2. Successful conservation needs people: Over the years, the idea that people are bad for nature and that the best way to protect an environment is to remove the people has led to numerous evictions, violence, the loss of property and other human rights abuses.

This is ongoing: between 1990 and 2014, approximately 250,000 people in 15 countries were evicted from protected areas. Exclusionary approaches to conservation also risk the loss of important knowledge held by indigenous peoples and local communities.

3. Sadly, conservation efforts led by indigenous people remain largely marginalized. The roles and contributions of local communities in protecting biodiversity are still excluded from most national biodiversity strategy and action plans. At the same time, however, their efforts are known to be one of the few bright spots: while under increasing pressure, nature managed in this way is generally found to be declining less rapidly than in other lands.  Ensure indigenous people have land rights.

Nov. 2020. Farmers will be paid to regenerate the countryside (30th Nov)

Nov. 2020. Beavers have built their first dam on Exmoor in more than 400 years (30th Nov):

Couldn’t find, but: Beavers have built their first dam on Exmoor in more than 400 years (30th Nov):

Dec. 2020. UN's FAO reports the future look bleak unless something is done about soil degradation (5th Dec):

4th Dec. 2020. European bird populations pushed ever northwards by climate change (4th Dec):

Dec. 2020. Wildflower meadows to be planted along new roads (2nd Dec):


Dec. 18th 2020. Rewilding - letters, e.g. Robin Prior: can’t just ‘let everything grow’ – too many alien species here e.g. sycamore: brought in 400 years ago and now pervasive, very few insects use it, and no fungi; grows fast and can starve other tress/shrubs of light; on the other hand the beech is also non-native, but has huge number of associated fungi and insects. ‘We need to consider what grows... and what food webs and habitats are built and supported. There is no guarantee that nature, unassisted, will arrive at a desired outcome.’ Reference to Rewilding Britain’s report on natural regeneration of woodland.

See also Arthur Rackham The History of the Countryside 1986:  tree-planting is an admission that conservation has failed. Need for follow-up maintenance; problem of deer; ‘trees growing from seed, in situ, will grow better, faster, more securely rooted and suited to prevailing conditions.’ Currently forestry companies [in Scotland?] are planting 65% Sitka spruce as a timber crop... and on Scottish moorlands where there is peat...


Dec. 2020, 28th. Steven Morris. Weather conditions more variable and affecting wildlife in different ways:

Only modest numbers of butterflies such as the brimstone and large skipper were recorded. A dearth of cold winters may be allowing their parasites and predators to prosper.

June was brutal for little terns at Long Nanny in Northumberland when storms washed nests away. The seabird has been in serious national decline since the 1980s, with fewer than 2,000 pairs now left in the UK.

Long dry periods in the summer hit some flora badly. Ash trees were affected by a prolonged warm and dry spell, which put them under additional stress, making them more susceptible to ash dieback. About 40,000 trees are being removed from National Trust land this year because of the disease.

Heather, already under stress from drought conditions in 2019, was more susceptible to dieback caused by the heather beetle. The beetle dies off in cold winters, but with this year’s warm and wet winter it continued to feed on the moorland plants, putting them under severe pressure and killing them off, affecting swathes across north Wales.

The mild and steady conditions in early autumn resulted in a “mast year” for trees, shrubs and hedgerows, with an abundance of acorns, conkers, sloes and rowan berries.


Jan 2021. Insects:

Jan 2021. Conversation:

Jan 2021. The ocean:

Jan. 2021, Ecowatch – whales:

Over 1.3 million whales were killed in just 70 years around Antarctica alone. The scale of this industrial harvest completely decimated many populations of large whales in the Southern Ocean. But nearly 40 years after commercial whaling ended, we’re finally seeing signs that some of the most heavily-targeted species are recovering.

Debate over trophy hunting and conservation: and see email from Pieter Kat, about petition to ban trophy hunting (

21 Jan 2021 — 

A newspaper article   begins with a sub-headline implying that trophy hunting opponents base their stance on “myths” and that they ignore “scientific facts”. In truth, the shoe is on the other foot. Trophy hunting proponents have never been able to clearly show that trophy hunting actually benefits the survival and conservation of targeted species, and instead rely on soundbites and slogans. The list of species supposedly benefiting from trophy hunting in the article is laughable – none of them have flourished because of trophy hunting. Sure, rhino numbers have increased in South Africa, but only because they were placed in private ownership on game farms where the owners could do what they wanted with them. Trophy hunters were one source of income for these rhino farmers, but rhinos were removed from the wild to stock the farms, and no privately held rhino can in any way be seen to contribute to conservation of the wild population.

It is dumbfounding to see that lions are also on the list of species “conserved” by trophy hunters as there is absolutely no evidence of this – to the contrary, there are multiple examples where significant damage has been caused to lion populations living at the borders of national parks that abut hunting concessions.

Trophy hunting, as an industry, is said to benefit species’ conservation in instances where such hunting is “well-regulated, transparent and devolves sufficient authority to the land managers, it has the potential to contribute to … conservation”. In fact, “in many countries, poor governance and weak regulation can lead to unsustainable trophy hunting” ( and trophy hunting operators flourish in corrupt nations.

As for “community support” – schools, clinics, fees paid, durable employment – there is precious little evidence as the trophy hunting industry has always worked under veils of opacity, tax avoidance, bribery, false financial reporting and similar murkiness.

Claims of “sustainable” hunting are largely unsatisfactory as the hunting operators do not allow independent assessments of trophy species’ population numbers in their areas – quotas are largely assigned on the basis of the operators’ own population counts and negotiations with wildlife authorities.

With regard to “saving millions of acres for wildlife” – the facts again are not there. This is most clearly evidenced by the lack of interest in current tenders for hunting areas, as 40% of former hunting areas in Zambia and up to 70% in Tanzania are so devoid of wildlife that hunting operators have lost all interest.

And finally, claims that hunting operators effectively control poaching in their concessions - there is no worse example of this myth than the Selous Game Reserve made up of 80% hunting blocks – where elephant carcasses were piled up high and deep during the recent poaching epidemic in Tanzania.

Trophy hunting is surely and emotional issue, and vocal proponents who continue to spread the hunting rhetoric will receive a backlash. As do those who take strong stands against the practice. The article again gets many things wrong in this regard – and this is an important distinction.

The current UK discussion involves plans to ban the imports of hunting trophies, not the practice of trophy hunting itself. Those writing letters to say the plan will interfere with the “rights” of African nations that have legalized trophy hunting are just plain wrong. Trophy hunters are still free to go to Africa to trophy hunt – they just might not be able to bring their trophies home in the future. This is very different in what is being falsely portrayed as a “ban on trophy hunting” and it is important to point out that any sovereign nation can put bans or restrictions on the products they allow to be imported.

It is high time that trophy hunting proponents deliver the scientific facts to support their cause rather than resorting to whining and nonsensical articles by pliant journalists. Only then there can be a true debate on the “conservation” value and benefits of trophy hunting instead of the current dependence on vague assertions.

As for the morality and ethics of trophy hunting (never discussed) those alone are sufficient cause to refuse further imports of the hunters’ spoils.

Jan 2021. Hakai magazine: grounds for hope because of the resilience of ecosystems, book - + piece on oceans:

Jan. 2021. Patrick Barkham on decline of bee species: - citizen science etc à records going up, but number of species reported is going down (Eduardo Zattara). GBIF analysed. This month a study of insects found a 10-20% decline over the decade. In the US, food crops are suffering because of loss of bees.

Jan. 24th 2021. Bolsonaro and ecocide:

Indigenous leaders in Brazil and human rights groups are urging the court to investigate the Brazilian president over his dismantling of environmental policies and violations of indigenous rights, which they say amount to ecocide.

William Bourdon, a Paris-based lawyer, submitted a request for a preliminary examination to the tribunal in The Hague, Netherlands, on Friday. The chief prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda, will then determine whether there are grounds for an investigation against Bolsonaro.

There is no deadline for a decision but “it is a matter of great urgency”, Bourdon said. “We are running against the clock, considering the devastation of the Amazon.”

Since Bolsonaro took office in 2019, vast stretches of the rainforest have been destroyed and traditional communities threatened. Deforestation has soared nearly 50% in two years and has reached its highest level since 2008. Invasions of indigenous territories increased 135% in 2019, and at least 18 people were murdered in land conflicts last year.

Despite that, fines for environmental crimes dropped 42% in the Amazon basin in 2019, and the federal government cut the budget for enforcement by 27.4% this year, a report revealed.

Jan. 2021. 21st Severin Carrell. Rewilding – lynx -

A consortium of conservationists that hopes to release wild lynx into the Scottish Highlands has launched a year-long study to see whether the public supports their reintroduction.

The lynx, Europe’s largest native cat, became extinct in northern Britain more than 500 years ago through habitat loss, hunting and persecution

Conservationists believe the new project, run by the Vincent Wildlife Trust and Trees for Life, alongside campaigners at Scotland: The Big Picture, has a significant chance of success.

The scheme faces heavy opposition from Scottish farmers, who cite the loss of about 20,000 sheep in Norway to its native predators, the wolverine, lynx, bear and wolf. The National Farmers Union of Scotland (NFUS) said lynx were blamed for a fifth of those losses.

Martin Kennedy, the deputy vice-president of the NFUS, said: “Predation in Norway has reduced over the past decade – not because of fewer predators, but the fact that hill farmers have simply stopped keeping sheep.

“The Norwegians told us that to reintroduce predators into our country would be an absolute catastrophe. Their experience has simply strengthened our resolve.”

It is thought that if the survey and engagement campaign, called Lynx for Scotland, succeeds in providing enough public support, an application for a licence to release the first of up to 40 lynx into the wild could be made in about five years.

A cluster of densely forested Highland estates in the Cairngorms, including estates owned by Povlsen and the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds reserve at Abernethy, are seen as the most likely sites for a pilot project.

Rausing and Povlsen, now Scotland’s largest private landowners, have championed rewilding projects on their estates, embarking on reforesting projects, banning driven grouse shooting, deer control programmes and conserving persecuted birds of prey.

The lynx would be tagged and closely monitored, mirroring a long-running official programme to reintroduce families of beavers in Scotland at Knapdale forest in Argyll, which began in 2009 despite vocal opposition by some local landowners.

Cairns said the partnership was not considering a licence application at this stage. “After 12 or 14 months, it may be that the evidence suggests the Scottish public isn’t yet ready for lynx. In which case we have to walk away from it,” Cairns said.

There are fears that rewilding activists could attempt to release lynx in Scotland unlawfully unless an official scheme gathers momentum.

The Knapdale beaver project was quickly overshadowed by a bitter row with farmers in Tayside about the rapid spread of beavers released illegally or accidentally in the area. Almost 90 beavers were shot under licence in the first eight months of licensed culling in 2019, with many others secretly killed.

The most significant hurdle facing a lynx reintroduction programme is meeting strict environmental and policy tests laid down by NatureScot, the government conservation agency, and the International Union for the Conservation of Nature.

The agency’s rules require licence applicants to prove the new species can survive naturally but its release also avoid conflicts with local land users, such as sheep or chicken farmers, by causing “unacceptable harm to people’s wellbeing, livelihoods and recreational activities”.

Dr Fraser MacDonald, a geographer at the University of Edinburgh who specialises in land use and population, said the lynx project had to allay fears it was promoting an elitist concept of rewilding, driven by the interests of powerful landowners.

“If ecological restoration is to succeed – to survive as more than a laird’s whim in 2021 – then it has to build support from precisely those communities who are likely to be affected,” Macdonald said. “Its implications are so far-reaching that it requires much greater democratic scrutiny.”

Jan. 2021. Most important report on economics and biodiversity crisis.

a newly published landmark review of the economics of biodiversity. Dasgupta report.

The world is being put at “extreme risk” by the failure of economics to take account of the rapid depletion of the natural world and needs to find new measures of success to avoid a catastrophic breakdown, a landmark review has concluded.

Prosperity was coming at a “devastating cost” to the ecosystems that provide humanity with food, water and clean air, said Prof Sir Partha Dasgupta, the Cambridge University economist who conducted the review. Radical global changes to production, consumption, finance and education were urgently needed, he said.

The 600-page review was commissioned by the UK Treasury, the first time a national finance ministry has authorised a full assessment of the economic importance of nature. A similar Treasury-sponsored review in 2006 by Nicholas Stern is credited with transforming economic understanding of the climate crisis.

The review said that two UN conferences this year – on biodiversity and climate change – provided opportunities for the international community to rethink an approach that has seen a 40% plunge in the stocks of natural capital per head between 1992 and 2014.

“Nature is our home. Good economics demands we manage it better,” said Dasgupta. “Truly sustainable economic growth and development means recognising that our long-term prosperity relies on rebalancing our demand of nature’s goods and services with its capacity to supply them. It also means accounting fully for the impact of our interactions with nature. Covid-19 has shown us what can happen when we don’t do this.”

Humanity’s impact on the natural world is stark, with animal populations having dropped by an average of 68% since 1970 and forest destruction continuing at pace – some scientists think a sixth mass extinction of life is under way and accelerating. Today, just 4% of the world’s mammals are wild, hugely outweighed by humans and their livestock.

The report said almost all governments were exacerbating the biodiversity crisis by paying people more to exploit nature than to protect it. A conservative estimate of the global cost of subsidies that damage nature was about $4tn-$6tn (£2.9-£4.4tn) a year,

A comprehensive UN global assessment of biodiversity in 2019 concluded that human society is in jeopardy from the accelerating decline of the Earth’s natural life-support systems, with about half of wild places lost and a million species at risk of extinction.

Prof Bob Watson, who led the UN assessment, said: “The most important thing is that the Dasgupta review was commissioned by the UK Treasury ministry, not the environment department. Hopefully this will mean that finance ministries around the world will acknowledge that the loss of nature is an economic issue, not simply an environmental issue.”


We would require 1.6 Earths to maintain the world’s current living standards,”

However, human societies could live sustainably, the review says, by ensuring the demands they put on nature do not exceed its supply. Food production is the biggest destroyer of biodiversity, Dasgupta says, and technology such as precision agriculture and genetic breeding can help. But overconsumption of produce linked to damage, such as beef, must be cut.

Humanity’s growing population must also be tackled, he says: “Addressing the shortfall [in women’s access to education and family planning] is essential, even if the effects may not be apparent in the short-term.” It is less costly to conserve nature than to restore it, so expanding and improving protected areas also has an essential role to play, according to the review.

Dasgupta says a reform of the measurement of economic success is needed. The use of GDP “is based on a faulty application of economics” because it measures the flow of money, not the stock of national assets. Introducing natural capital into national accounting systems would be a critical step.

Feb.2021. New Internationalist – excellent article: By Dinyar Godrej

Feb. 2021. The Conversation – on mixing of ‘native’ and ‘non-native’ species: - not all non-native species cause problems. Brown hare and rabbit were both brought into Britain, and now play their part in the ecology.

Feb 28th 2021. Protecting the Amazon: 

Princess Esmeralda of Belgium, president of the Leopold III Fund for Nature Exploration and Conservation and one of the co-hosts of the 3-hour special, lamented the bleak outlook.

"The current state of the Amazon rainforest is dire," she told EcoWatch. "During 2019 and 2020, deforestation continued at a frightening pace and scale. Last year, it increased by 30 percent from what was already a record-breaking year in 2019."

The conservation journalist also pointed out how deforestation, invasion of indigenous lands and mining in the rainforest have skyrocketed under Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, a known pro-development, anti-Amazon, anti-indigenous candidate. Bolsonaro was elected with the support of the "so-called BBB (beef, bullets and bible)," a very powerful lobby composed of militaries, Christian evangelists and meat producers, Princess Esmeralda said. She estimated that almost 20 percent of the Amazon had been lost in the last half-century.

Unfortunately, attempts to stop the destruction have fallen short.



Despite Brazil previously setting a goal of slowing the pace of deforestation to 3,900 sq km annually by 2020, deforestation increased 9.5% from last year, and a total of 11,088 sq km (4,281 sq miles) of rainforest was destroyed from August 2019 to July 2020, according to the news report. That area is just smaller than the state of Connecticut, The New York Times noted.

Scientists blame part of this acceleration on far-right Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, who was elected on a pro-development promise and took office in Jan. 2019. Bolsonaro encourages agriculture and mining in the world's largest rainforest and has actively introduced policies and bills that open up the forest to loggers, ranchers and mining operations. He has also cut critical funding for federal enforcement agencies that police farmers and loggers breaking environmental laws, the BBC reported.

Feb. 2021. PAN on Roundup:

Pesticide News 124 – in HFoE Bees folder. [Includes articles on pesticide-free developments in Hackney, Global poisonings, and bees...]

Prolonged exposure to concentrations of the weedkiller Roundup that are well below what is deemed safe by regulatory agencies, causes significant harm to freshwater species according to new research at the University of Birmingham.A team at the University’s School of Biosciences used waterfleas, or Daphnia magna, to test the effects of long-term exposure to environmentally relevant concentrations of Roundup. They found that even at approved regulatory levels, the weedkiller causes embryonic development failure, significant DNA damage, and interferes with the animals’ metabolism and gut function. These findings are particularly worrying since Daphnia are at the heart of aquatic food webs. Impact on these species can have cascading effects on the rest of the ecosystem. Moreover, the effects of the weedkiller are amplified through the food chain – every time a small organism is eaten by a larger one, the concentration of the chemical may increase,

State of Nature Petition Wild Justice is one of over 50 wildlife groups asking you to send a strong message in favour of wildlife to the Westminster government.  Today sees the launch of a major campaign to persuade Boris Johnson to add an amendment to the Environment Bill to set a legally binding target to reverse the loss of nature in England by 2030. Please add your voice to the #StateOfNature petition

March 2021. Rainforest destruction worse than thought.

April 2021.  - follows up a webinar sponsored by the Woodland Trust.